This technical note highlights concerning downward trends in coverage of immunization services in the Latin American and Caribbean region. Urgent action is needed to address the underlying drivers of these declines so that every child in the region is reached with life-saving vaccines.
Latin America and the Caribbean have experienced a persistent downward trend in immunization coverage over the last 10 years and have fallen behind most other regions. Coverage of the third dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, a marker of health system performance, has dropped from 90 per cent in 2012 to 75 per cent in 2021, leaving 2.4 million children vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases.
Multiple factors have contributed to declines in the availability and uptake of immunization services in the region including political and economic instability, economic downturns, deterioration of health systems, and an increase in vaccine hesitancy. These factors were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most countries in the region experienced reductions in immunization coverage during the first two years of the pandemic, ranging from a drop of 1 to 20 percentage points.
Stakeholders should work together to implement national immunization plans that promote equitable access to immunization, intensify catch-up efforts to reach children who missed out on vaccination services during the pandemic, increase investments in primary health care to improve service quality and availability, and engage with communities to address concerns about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.
This article was first published by UNICEF.